While many of us may a share a commonality as Black Americans, our heritage reflects a rich and varied history. Florida is a prime example of that and there are many great cities to learn more about Black History in Florida.
Here are some of my recommendations of Florida destinations where you can go to learn more about Black history in Florida year-round.
*Please check with any of the locations mentioned to confirm whether they are open and any safety guidelines or Covid-19 precautions being taken.
1. St. Augustine
Fort Mose State Park – This Black history site in Florida has an interactive museum that tells the complete story of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what would become the United States. Although there are no remains of the earth and wooden structures, visitors can still view the land where the settlement once stood.
There is also a boardwalk through the wetland where you can walk out to a lookout point with information on where the Fort would be if it were still standing.
It is a great park to learn more about the early beginnings of free Black people in America.
In the summer months there is a reenactment of the Battle of Bloody Mose, which depicts Spanish troops backed by free Black Militia, and allied Seminole warriors.
Lincolnville Museum and Cultural Center – Lincolnville is the historic district in St. Augustine settled by freedmen shortly after the Civil War. This museum tells the story of St. Augustine’s black history starting from the empires of West Africa and the early black presence in colonial Florida to the 20th century.
There are also two virtual tours available on the website.
Perry Harvey, Sr. Park – Park located in downtwon Tampa located in the historic Black areas once known as The Scrub and the Central Business District. The park is named for Perry Harvey, Sr., who made signficant contributions to the growth and development of the Black community from the 1930s through the 70s. He is credited with helping to desegregate schools in the district and creating the first Black owned apartment building with a bank, shops, market, and other businesses.
The Park has placards, sculptures, and murals all dedicated to depicting Black leaders who played significant roles in the growth and development of Tampa and depicting the life of Black Americans in the heyday of the Central Avenue Business district which at one time had over 200 Black-owned businesses.
3. St. Petersburg
Dr. Carter G Woodson African American History Musuem – A museum in South St. Pete dedicated to preserving the history of African Americans in the St. Petersburg community and throughout the African Diaspora.
It’s also home to the Black Lives Matter mural created by local artists.
*currently closed due to Covid-19
Zora Neale Hurston National Museum – This is an art museum that dedicates gallery exhibits to showcasing the art of artists from across the African diaspora.
Wells’ Built Museum of African American History and Culture – A historic Black owned hotel now turned museum to showcase memorabilia of Orlando’s African-American community and displays on the Civil Rights movement along with some African art and artifacts.
5. Amelia Island
Williams House – The Williams House is a historic Florida Heritage Landmark site built in 1856 that at one point was used as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad to help enslaved people seeking freedom.
Today it is a functioning Bed and Breakfast but the secret room near the dining room is still there.
American Beach Museum – 216 acres of oceanfront land purchased by A.L. Lewis to provide a safe haven and vacation spot for Black families from the 1930s to the 1960s.
*Museum is currently closed due to Covid-19
- Meek Eaton Black Archives: Florida’s oldest Historically Black College & University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) was established in 1887 and now home to more than 11,000 students from more than 70 countries. Florida A&M University’s Meek Eaton Black Archives is the Southeast’s most extensive collections of African-American artifacts, located at the historic 1907 Carnegie Library. Established by the Florida legislature in 1971, the repository houses more than half a million documents and thousands of artifacts from all over the world. The collection includes a 500-piece Ethiopian cross collection and rare African books and maps, some dating back to the 1700s.
- Riley House: Named to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978, the Riley House is a historical landmark for the community in Tallahassee. Owner, John Riley, was born into slavery in 1857 in Leon County. After slavery, he pursued education for a career and worked as a teacher and principal for the school board from the 1880s until 1926. The Riley House represents the thriving, middle-class black community that once existed in downtown Tallahassee – Smoky Hollow – and now serves as a museum preserving African-American history and culture, from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights movement.
- Frenchtown Heritage Trail – Soul Voices: Introduced by the John G. Riley House, Soul Voices of Frenchtown Heritage Trail features 13 markers with audio components of the voices of its prominent residents both living and deceased telling the story of Frenchtown, one of Tallahassee’s oldest African American communities. That history continues to be expanded upon, with four new markers being added just this November. Through these voices, visitors will discover, learn and celebrate a time when Frenchtown was a thriving, self-sustaining community of families, homes, businesses and pride – a time when Frenchtown had it all.
7. Fort Myers
Wiliams Academy Black History Museum – A historic Black school turned museum that depicts historical memorabilia of local black citizens and the history and culture of the black community
*closed due to Covid-19
8. New Smyrna Beach
Mary S. Harrell Black Heritage Museum – The museum shows the contributions of Black Floridians, through collections of photos, oral histories, memorabilia and artifacts to educate citizens about the history of race relations in small-town Florida over the course of the twentieth century.
9. Daytona Beach, FL
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune – Visit the HBCU campus of Bethune-Cookman University and the home of Dr. Bethune to learn more about her contributions to higher education.
10. Fort Lauderdale
African American Research Library and Cultural Center – This 60,000-square-foot facility is built in the heart of one of Broward’s historically black communities showcasing African, African American and Caribbean heritages, cultures and histories.
There is a self-guided tour and many online virtual events and resources.
11. Fort Pierce
Backus Museum – Home of the state’s only permanent multi-media exhibition on the Florida Highwaymen, Black artists that sold Florida landscape paintings up and down the east coast of Florida in the 1950s and 60s.
It’s worth mentioning that Silver Springs, Florida had a Black recreation and swim park called Paradise Park. During the Jim Crow era attractions like Silver Springs did not allow Black patrons so Paradise Park was created for Black people to have a place to swim and enjoy the river and take segregated glass bottom boat tours.
Today, you will not find any markers in the park that pay homage to this history but it is still an interesting fact worth mentioning and teaching your kids about when you visit.
This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list of every place to learn about Black history in Florida but it’s a great start. I encourage you to visit the websites and learn more for yourself and add it to your children’s at home curriculum.
Have you visited any of these Florida Black history sites? Are any of them on your list? If you have a suggestion of a place to visit please tell us in the comments below!
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